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Gurjinder Dhaliwal FRSA uses real-life workplace insight to support young people into employment

Improve social mobility by telling us what you do!

there is a postcode lottery for careers advice for young people

-- Managing Director, City & Guilds

When you talk to people about their jobs you learn all sorts of surprising things. Video game designers train in the skills their customers will simulate. Hotel food managers think very carefully about where to put the eggs and bacon in the buffet line. And independent plumbers turn down way more jobs than they accept.

At Think Smart, we believe that a lack of awareness as to what jobs involve hinders social mobility. There is just not enough high-quality information available about career paths for young people and students. To add to this, budget cuts have resulted in there not being enough careers advisers either. The result: many miss out on achieving their true potential.

According to the DfE, young people who are uncertain or unrealistic about career ambitions are three times more likely to spend significant periods of time not in education, employment or training (NEET). This also has a knock-on effect to employers once young people are in work, as this lack of information about job expectations directly leads to lower retention. To put this problem into perspective, one in four graduates quit their job within one year of starting their graduate role. This can have a cost of up to £30k per employer.

So, what are we doing about it?

We have created a tech platform that democratises access to information about careers and enables students to explore potential courses and jobs by solving real-world problems faced every day by the professionals. We have sourced real-life, every-day workplace problems from various sectors, and turned them into multiple-choice scenarios to prepare young people for the world of work. This gamification helps users better understand different roles, and the skills they involve.


Fig 1: Sample question on our portal

 As users work their way through a set of problems, they get an inside look as to what it’s really like to do that job, or even a job they didn’t know existed. The tool is adaptive so that each problem is a function of what the user enjoyed from the previous problem.  Unlike traditional psychometric tools, after each question we explain why some answers are wrong and why one or two are what the professional would advise, in order to help educate and inform. After each question, we also ask users whether they would enjoy the problem they were faced with should they encounter it in the workplace. From this, we can use the rich data to help ‘match-make’ them to relevant jobs and industries.


Fig 2: The adaptive element allows users to have a bespoke journey



Fig 3: Users are asked how much they enjoy the problem, this is a shift away from focusing solely on aptitude

 This allows users to create their own tailored learning journey. Every user receives their own personalised dashboard which shows them their topics of interest, the careers they discovered and their problem-solving skills. We never pigeonhole users into certain career paths or industries, rather we seek to showcase the types of industries out there that might be interesting for them and, within these, which roles they have transferable skills for. It is from here that they can view the world of opportunity open to them!


Fig 4: After answering questions, users have a personalised dashboard which is linked to learning opportunities, as well as relevant job openings

This is where the social mobility part of our mission comes in. Students from less advantaged backgrounds can experience a real day in the life of a journalist or a lawyer, even if they’ve never met one before. Access to this information can be instrumental in landing roles or, perhaps equally importantly, deciding not to apply for a role they will not enjoy. In our view, it is essential for students to know the range of opportunities out there because if they aren’t aware of them, there is no way they can compete for them and fulfil their potential by doing a job they really love.

For employers, the benefit is clear. We can channel motivated problem-solvers to them in a way that large job boards and recruitment agencies often ignore. Think Smart users are better informed about the jobs they apply for, leading to more motivated hires who are a better fit for their roles.

For young people who have been severely let down by poor careers guidance, we help improve their employability and their chances of getting a job they would love, by arming them with knowledge they can use to secure the perfect role.

And we have seen considerable demand from educational institutions, particularly in the FE sector, so we are creating regional microsites highlighting local vacancies for FE graduates to help boost outcomes to help boost outcomes.

Our ambition is to make Think Smart the rite of passage for career planning.


How you can help us to improve social mobility

1)      Employers: For those who work for SMEs or large employers, we’d love to explore ways in which we can collaborate. Whether that is ensuring your industry is represented on our site, or your jobs are live, let’s chat!

2)     Students: If you work for an educational institution, we’d love to speak to you to discuss how we can collaborate

3)     Content: You can contribute content from a day in your professional life on our online portalhere, alternatively please contact me if you’d prefer our team to interview you


Please reach out to me at if you would like to get involved.

Gurjinder Dhaliwal is an RSA Fellow and is a Business Development Associate at Think Smart.


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